Louise Lovely

Louise Lovely (born Nellie Louise Carbasse;[1] 28 February 1895 – 18 March 1980) was an Australian film actress. She is credited by film historians for being the first Australian actress to have a successful career in Hollywood, signing a contract with Universal Pictures in the United States in 1914. Lovely appeared in 50 American films and ten Australian films before retiring from acting in 1925.

Louise Lovely
Louise Lovely Witzel.jpg
Lovely, c. 1920
Nellie Louise Carbasse

(1895-02-28)28 February 1895
Died18 March 1980(1980-03-18) (aged 85)
Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Other namesLouise Carbasse
Louise Welch
Years active1904–1925
Wilton Welch
(m. 1912; div. 1928)
Bert Cowan
(m. 1930)

Early lifeEdit

Louise Lovely was born Nellie Louise Carbasse in Paddington, Sydney to an Italian musician and composer father, Ferruccio Carlo Alberti (1844–1913), and a Swiss mother, Elise Louise Jeanne de Gruningen Lehmann (1860–1926),[2] who had come to Australia in 1891, in the company of Sarah Bernhardt, and had decided to remain in Sydney once Bernhardt had left Australia.[3]

Louise Lovely made her professional debut at age nine as Eva in a stage production of the classic Uncle Tom's Cabin, using the name Louise Carbasse.[4]


Early workEdit

Lovely was acting with George Marlow's[5] theatre company in Western Australia when she received a telegram from Gaston Mervale to appear in a series of movies for Australian Life Biograph Company.[6]

Hollywood filmsEdit

In 1914, Lovely moved to the United States with her husband, hoping to replicate her Australian success, settling in Los Angeles, California.[1] In California, Lovely caught the attention of Universal Studios head Carl Laemmle who both gave her a contract with his studio and re-christened her Louise Lovely.[4] She made her American debut alongside the legendary Lon Chaney in Father and the Boys in 1915, receiving strong reviews.[7] She starred with Chaney again in several other films including her next release US film Stronger Than Death (1915) and The Gilded Spider and Tangled Hearts (both 1916).

Lovely, ca. 1920.

Lovely became one of Universal's major early stars and a challenger to Mary Pickford's status as the golden girl of early silent cinema,[8] but was dropped by the studio in 1918 following a contract dispute. Though she was subsequently picked up by 20th Century Fox, where she starred in a series of Westerns with William Farnum, her career never reached its earlier heights. Over a course of four years, she had appeared in fifty American films.[8]

As a consequence of having her hair singed on an American movie set, she permanently changed her hair style from long flowing locks to a bob cut.[9]

Return to AustraliaEdit

In 1924, Lovely and her husband returned to Australia in pursuit of a new interest - film production. Lovely had maintained a long-time interest in the behind-the-scenes aspects of film, and had collaborated with Welch on a successful short documentary feature, A Day at the Studio, but her plans for her return to Australia were far more ambitious. Lovely and Welch undertook a nationwide talent search to encourage budding new movie actresses. Over 23,000 actors and actresses attended Lovely's auditions, which included demonstrations of movie equipment and acting technique, and which took place at prestigious locations such as Melbourne's Princess Theatre. Twenty were selected to appear in Lovely's next film venture Jewelled Nights (1925), which was written and directed by herself and her husband.[10]

Based on the novel by Marie Bjelke Petersen, Jewelled Nights told the story of a young woman who escaped from an unhappy marriage, instead posing as a young man and finding refuge in a tough mining community, where she finds love with a fellow miner (played by Gordon Collingridge).[11] Though it was an outstanding success, it did not recoup its high costs. The Australian film industry, once one of the most productive in the world, was about to fall into a slump that was to last for fifty years. Lovely was offered no more roles and could not afford any further independent productions, and thus, Jewelled Nights was her last film. Today, very little of the film survives other than outtakes and stills.

Prior to the production of Jewelled Nights, between 1921 and 1925, Lovely and Welch traveled throughout the United States and Australia, leading "A Day at the Studio", a traveling show in which audience members volunteered for on-stage "screen tests".[8]

Personal lifeEdit

Lovely married fellow actor Wilton Welch in February 1912,[12] when she was only sixteen years old, and relocated to the United States with him.[4] Lovely testified at the Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry in Australia, suggesting a number of measures that might stimulate the struggling local film industry. Soon afterwards, she made a return to the stage. It was at around this time that Lovely's marriage to Wilton Welch disintegrated; Welch was homosexual,[13] and their marriage remained unconsummated for the first four years.[14] Lovely and Welch were divorced in November 1928.[15][16][4]

She married Melbourne theatre manager Albert Bertie Cowen,[17] known as "Bert Cowan", at the Melbourne Registry Office on Monday, 26 November 1928; the same day as her divorce was granted in Sydney.[18] Her marriage to Cowan lasted for the rest of her life.[4]

The couple moved to Hobart, Tasmania in 1946, where Cowan became the manager of the Prince of Wales Theatre.[19] Lovely managed the theatre's sweet shop, where she worked until her death in 1980.[20][21]


Bobbie of the Ballet (1916).
With Hale Hamilton in Johnny on the Spot (1919).
  Denotes a lost or presumed lost film.[a]
Year Title Role Notes
1911 One Hundred Years Ago   Judith As Louise Carbasse
1911 A Ticket in Tatts   Mrs. Fallon As Louise Carbasse
1911 The Colleen Bawn   The Colleen As Louise Carbasse
1911 A Tale of the Australian Bush   Mrs. Hall As Louise Carbasse
1912 Hands Across the Sea   As Louise Carbasse
1912 A Daughter of Australia   As Louise Carbasse
1912 Conn, the Shaughraun   As Louise Carbasse
1912 The Wreck of the Dunbar or The Yeoman's Wedding   Short film; as Louise Carbasse
1912 The Ticket of Leave Man   As Louise Carbasse
1915 Father and the Boys   Bessie Brayton
1915 Stronger Than Death   June Lathrop
1916 The Measure of a Man   Pattie Batch
1916 Dolly's Scoop Dolly Clare Short film; as Louise Welch
1916 The Grip of Jealousy   Virginia Grant
1916 Tangled Hearts   Vera Lane
1916 The Gilded Spider   Leonita & Elisa
1916 The Grasp of Greed Alice Gordon
1916 Bobbie of the Ballet   Bobbie Brent
1916 Bettina Loved a Soldier   Bettina Scott
1916 The Social Buccaneer   Marjorie Woods
1916 Stronger Than Steel   Daphne of the Follies Short film
1917 Blood Money   Belle Blaire Short film
1917 The Fugitive   Nan Donovan Short film
1917 The Diamonds of Destiny   Jane Lowe Short film
1917 The Outlaw and the Lady   Ruth Carter Short film
1917 The Fourth Witness   Margaret Bryant Short film
1917 The Gift Girl Rokaia Feature film
1917 The Grip of Love   Ruth Overholt Short film
1917 Her Great Dilemma   Mary Blanton Short film
1917 The Field of Honor Laura Sheldon
1917 Her Strange Experience   Marie Short film
1917 The Reed Case   Helen Reed
1917 Sirens of the Sea   Lorelei
1918 The Wolf and His Mate   Bess Nolan
1918 Painted Lips   Lou McTavish[22]
1918 Nobody's Wife   Hope Ross
1918 The Girl Who Wouldn't Quit   Joan Tracy
1918 A Rich Man's Darling   Julie Le Fabrier
1919 Life's a Funny Proposition   Mary Austin
1919 Johnny-on-the-Spot   Ann Travers
1919 The Man Hunter   Helen Garfield
1919 The Usurper   Beatrice Clive
1919 The Lone Star Ranger   Ray Longstreth[23]
1919 Wolves of the Night   Isabel Hollins
1919 The Last of the Duanes   Jenny Lee
1919 Wings of the Morning   Iris Deane
1920 The Third Woman Eleanor Steele
1920 The Butterfly Man   Bessie Morgan
1920 The Orphan   Helen Fields
1920 Twins of Suffering Creek   Little Casino
1920 The Joyous Trouble-Maker   Beatrice Corlin
1920 The Skywayman   Grace Ames
1920 The Little Grey Mouse   Beverly Arnold
1921 Partners of Fate   Helen Meriless
1921 While the Devil Laughs   Mary Franklin
1921 The Old Nest   Kate at 21–31
1921 The Heart of the North Patricia Graham
1921 The Poverty of Riches   Grace Donaldson
1921 Life's Greatest Question   Nan Cumberland
1922 Shattered Idols   Diana Chichester
1925 Jewelled Nights Elaine Fleetwood


  1. ^ Status of films deemed lost is adapted from Lovely's entry in the Women Film Pioneers Project at Columbia University. According to the project, only nine films of Lovely are extant, five of which are feature films.[8]


  1. ^ a b Vieth & Moran 2005, p. 181.
  2. ^ Madame Alberti, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Monday, 16 August 1926), p.12; Deaths: Alberti, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Monday, 16 August 1926), p.10.
  3. ^ Louise Lovely, Table Talk, (Thursday, 16 October 1924), p.49.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Louise Nellie Lovely". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  5. ^ George Marlow's Names, The (Wagga Wagga) Daily Advertiser, (Tuesday, 30 May 1939), p.2.
  6. ^ "SUNBURN FRECKLES AND TAN". Sunday Times. Perth, W. Aust. 10 March 1912. p. 26. Retrieved 26 January 2012 – via National Library of Australia.
  7. ^ "LOUISE LOVELY". The Prahran Telegraph (Vic. : 1914 - 1918). Vic.: National Library of Australia. 6 January 1917. p. 8. Retrieved 24 March 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d Delamoir, Jeanette. "Louise Lovely". Women Film Pioneers Project. Columbia University. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  9. ^ Maher, Louise, "Silent film star Louise Lovely's 1916 fan letter and photos acquired by National Archive", ABC Radio Canberra, Wednesday, 4 April 2018.
  10. ^ Blonski, Creed & Freiberg 1987, p. 28.
  11. ^ Sanders, Anne, "Jewelled Nights", Portrait Magazine, No. 56, National Portrait Gallery, 6 March 2017.
  12. ^ Mr. Wilton Welch and Mademoiselle Louise Carbasse, Table Talk, (Thursday, 29 February 1912), p.8; Marriages: Welch—Carbasse Alberti, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Tuesday, 27 February 1912), p.8.
  13. ^ Gillard, Garry (13 December 2012). "Louise Lovely (and Wilton Welch)". Australasian Cinema. Retrieved 27 June 2017.
  14. ^ O'Brien, Phillip (17 April 1999). "Lee makes the right choice as Louise". The Canberra Times. Panorama. p. 20.
  15. ^ In Divorce: Welch v Welch, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Friday, 3 September 1926), p.8; Miss Louise Lovely: Wants Her Husband Back, The (Adelaide) Advertiser, (Friday, 3 September 1926), p.16; Not so Lovely now, The (Sydney Truth, (Sunday, 5 September 1926), p.17.
  16. ^ "The decree nisi granted in the suit of Nellie Louise Welch v William Harry Welch, was made absolute, and the marriage declared dissolved": In Divorce, The Sydney Morning Herald, (Tuesday, 27 November 1928), p.8.
  17. ^ 1924 prosecution has "Andrew Bertie Cowen" (Traffic Prosecutions, The Argus, (Monday, 26 May 1924), p.17); and the Victorian marriage record (registration no.11739 of 1928) has "Nellie Louise Alberti" and "Andrew Bertie Cowen".
  18. ^ Miss Lovely Gets Divorce: Marries Again on the Same day, The Northern Territory Times, (Tuesday, 27 November 1928), p.5. Miss Louise Lovely: Married in Melbourne, The (Adelaide) Advertiser, Tuesday, 27 November 1928), p.15; Topics of Feminine Interest: Louise Loveley's Wedding, The Countryman, (Friday, 30 November 1928), p.10; Theatrical Party Filmed, The Mercury, (Friday, 8 February 1929), p.5.
  19. ^ Theatre Director Entertained, The Mercury, (Tuesday, 1 February 1949), p.6.
  20. ^ McIntyre, Paul, "Louise Lovely: The silent film star who tried to bring Hollywood to Tasmania", ABC Radio Hobart, 10 September 2017.
  21. ^ Actress Dies, The Canberra Times, (Thursday, 20 March 1980), p.3.
  22. ^ "Features Scheduled for April". Motography. 19 (1–26): 217. 2 February 1918 – via Google Books.
  23. ^ Wenzell, Nicolette (3 April 2016). "1919 movie 'The Lone Star Ranger' shot in Palm Springs". The Desert Sun. Gannett.


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